PKC: The Efficient City and the Death of the Mixed-Use Typology

The 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Joining us at the conference is Mr David Cooke, Director at City Collective who will present on ‘PKC: The Efficient City and the Death of the Mixed-Use Typology’.


It is our assertion that cities today are incredibly inefficient, with strikingly low utilization of the buildings we construct. With increasing pressure for cities to be affordable, equitable and inclusive, the time was right for us to radically reconsider the assumptions of traditional building types. Does the rigid deployment of building types by use still efficiently support the elastic lifestyles of people today? We have found they do not and assert a new generation of building types that has the potential to unlock material increases in efficiency, affordability, inclusivity and equity.
To provoke a new generation of building typology for greater implied efficiency, we developed the following four-part methodology:

1. Uncover key task trends collected from primary survey data from example cities.
2. Chart the task trends onto traditional buildings types, by use and by scale.
3. Assign an implied utilization of each building type.
4. Generate a new building typology to achieve heightened implied utilization.
One or two building concepts will be presented to provoke the possibilities of design through the methodology outlined above. The preliminary impacts of these new building types are defined by quantitate result that demonstrate the positive impacts on cities in the following ways:

• increases overall utilization of buildings
• decreases housing cost
• decreases commute times
• access to amenities has increased by
We suggest these new typologies of building be accommodated as mixed-task development, rather than mixed-used, as we find tasks of working, living, and playing are more elastic than originally thought. Greater efficiency can be achieved through a higher concentration of task as we find segregation of tasks by building typology leads to inefficient utilization both in space and in time.


David Cooke has the unique skillset of being an internationally qualified Urban Designer, a registered Architect and an accredited Planner. In 2014 David was awarded a prestigious scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley in their intensive Masters of Urban Design program. Upon returning to Australia, as Director of design studio City Collective, David is now applying this international knowledge and experienced gained to address the urban renewal challenges that face Australian cities.

For more information on the 2018 International Urban Design Conference visit the conference website at

UD3: Where Do the Children Play?

The 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Joining us at the conference is Miss Natalia Krysiak, Architect with Hayball Architects who will present on ‘UD3: Where Do the Children Play?’

Miss Natalia Krysiak


Design Child-Friendly Communities

The debate surrounding the densification of our cities exists in a context of increasing pressures on population growth, housing affordability and a growing recognition of the need to reduce carbon emissions. With Australian cities now moving towards a more compact planning approach, the question this presentation will address – where do the children play? – is one which is significantly neglected in the urban design realm.

High density housing is currently promoted by both developers and city planners as the ultimate dwelling for urban singles and older ’empty nesters’ resulting in both a direct and perceived exclusion of families with children. With the exclusion of children from the compact urban fabric, comes a negligence towards the provision of safe travel paths, neighbourhood play strategies and appropriate apartment designs for families with children. The presentation will address the topic in three ways:
1. Identify the context surrounding the exclusion of children from cities and the increasing number of ‘vertical families’
2. Explore how city design can improve the health and wellbeing of children
3. Highlight the current thinking and child-friendly initiatives around the world

With an increasing body of research linking children’s play and independence in creating more resilient and healthier communities, the topic has paramount importance for designers and planners of our cities.


A practicing architect in Hayball’s Sydney studio, Natalia has been involved in advocating for child-friendly cities since graduating from Monash University in Melbourne, engaging in a range of place-making initiatives around the world. In 2017 Natalia was awarded the David Lindner Research Prize by the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects. Her winning proposal investigates the potential for high-density areas to provide environments for increased play and independent mobility of children.

She has presented her research at a range of conferences and events including Urbanity 2017 in Brisbane, the 2017 Next City Conference in Newcastle and the 2018 Sydney Design Festival. Based on the David Lindner Research prize, Natalia has founded ‘Cities for Play’ which aims to inspire and promote strategies for playful and child-friendly built environments.

For more information on the 2018 International Urban Design Conference visit the conference website at



Shaping Cities: The Design Imperative

The 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Joining us at the conference as a keynote speaker is Ms Caroline Stalker,Design Director Urban and Principal, ARUP Australasia (QLD) who will present on ‘Shaping Cities: The Design Imperative’.

Caroline’s Bio

Ms Caroline Stalker

Caroline is a highly skilled designer, communicator and leader of teams for complex urban design and master planning projects. Her career spans 30 years and a range of project types, including new communities, urban regeneration around transport hubs, city and town centres, universities, public spaces, public buildings, mixed use and multi-residential buildings. Throughout her career Caroline has demonstrated a sustained commitment to enhancing people’s connection to the natural world and each other through design, and an outstanding ability to take an holistic approach to the complex design problems of cities. This has been recognised over the years through numerous architecture and planning awards. Caroline is an Adjunct Professor, School of Design, QUT Creative Industries, and has served on and chaired awards juries in both architecture and urban design, and held advisory roles for government.


The vast majority of Australians live in places that are untouched by the hands of architects, urban designers, or landscape architects.  Following a childhood in Australia’s great laboratory of urban ideas, Canberra, the idea that the city is shaped by intelligent acts of design seemed the norm to me – until we moved to Brisbane in the late 70s.  Sitting tidily at the opposite end of the city design spectrum from Canberra, late 20th century Brisbane, like other Australian cities, was growing at pace, shaped by the twin forces of escalating private car ownership and use and unshaped urban expansion.   The imperative for design in these two examples represent two extremes: the ‘top down’ design-led city vs the un-designed city of laissez faire individualism.  Each instance paints a different role for design and the designer; prime author or minor player on individual sites.

These days we talk about city design as a collaborative act, a complex deliberative democracy where disciplines and stakeholders sit alongside one another. This more civilised response to urban complexity brings with it important opportunities for integration, multi-disciplinary and multi stakeholder engagement.  The role of design and designer is to provide a platform for this collaboration.  However, reflecting on 30 years of design practice, the great majority of work has also required applying clear and strong design thinking to retrofit ad hoc urban development that doesn’t work well as an urban environment.  The driving imperative here is to structure unstructured settings, provide the unifying community glue of public realm where there is none, and create a distinct whole place for people out of fragments of land so that people can occupy the resulting spaces in new ways.  It’s always collaborative, it’s always complex.  But the collaboration has always needed filtering through a powerful design framework that orchestrates the pieces and the complexity. Without strong design thinking as a platform for bringing together the collaborative effort, the ‘whole place’ puzzle remains unsolved.

As the 21st century unfolds, we have a new raft of megatrends that are shaping cities, while we are still dealing with the legacy issues of 20th century urbanism.  These include the emergence of the digital disruption in transport, retail and work practices, and changes in urban energy systems and our changing urban demographics.  These shifts all demand new thinking, new approaches, new policies to response.  Increasing complexity demands more collaboration, more integrated layers of expertise.  With these demands comes an even greater need for the organising and humanising layer of strong design in shaping cities.

The paper will present project examples from Arup’s global portfolio to illustrate design imperatives in contemporary city making.

For more information on and to join us at the 2018 International Urban Design Conference, please visit the conference website at

How many people make a good city? It’s not the size that matters, but how you use it

Australia’s population clock is, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, steadily ticking away at an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 23 seconds.

Many are debating what the ideal population is for a country like Australia. But because most of this population growth is concentrated in our big cities, perhaps we should be thinking less about that and more about the ideal size of a city. Historically, there have been many theories on what this would be.

From Aristotle to Albanese

For Aristotle (384–322 BC), for instance, the key was balance. Cities had to contain a minimum number of groups, such as citizens and slaves, to work politically. Similarly, a city’s population had to be balanced against the size of the territory it drew its resources from to enable each citizen (but not slave) to have what he called a “good life”.

Aristotle reputedly drew on the constitutions of what were then known as city states. These aren’t directly comparable to today’s cities but do make for good test cases with which to examine urban models. City states of the time, in the vanguard of urban life as they were, were equivalent to small towns of today and less connected and more homogeneous.

During the 20th century, as the world’s population grew, planners around the world tried to deliberately limit the size of cities. But how did they decide on the ideal size?

Planning theorist Lewis Keeble wrote in the late 1950s that the ideal UK city size could be determined by setting the distance for citizens to reach the countryside. So, a resident in the centre of a town could reasonably be expected to walk to the edge of the city for a distance of two miles (3.2km).

In the lead-up to the 2016 federal election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aimed for a deal to be struck between all levels of government, to deliver suburbs where residents can get to school or work within 30 minutes. And in a speech to the National Press Club two years earlier, Labor’s shadow minister for cities, Anthony Albanese, said he was “particularly attracted” to the concept of the 30-minute city.

It’s not the size that matters

But a city’s liveability isn’t equal to its appeal for living and working in. Tokyo, the largest city in the world, will never top the liveability scale. Its infrastructure challenges are of a different order compared to Australia’s cities. The equivalent of Australia’s population passes through the ticket barriers of Shinjuku, its busiest station, in a week.

Under this concept, with a density of 50 people per hectare, the ideal city size would be 160,000. For a city, where the population would have access to public transport, Keeble estimated this would be around 4 million.

Keeble was the first to admit these calculations were naive. Yet a calculation of city size based on the biological limits of the human body, mixed with the use of public transport, echoes contemporary thinking. Cities that often top the liveability scale – such as Melbourne and Vancouver – are universally mid-sized (around 4-5 million people) with low population density.

More recently, in the late 1990s, the Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti’s term “the 30-minute city”, first proposed in a relatively obscure paper, has been drawn into policy language.

But these challenges are being managed quite successfully.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

Discover more about the importance of urban planning

The International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW from Monday 12 – Tuesday 13 November 2018. The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Find out more about registration options here.

According to study these are the key features a ‘happy city’ needs

City planners and designers want to build cities that are liveable, healthy and smart. Yet, in the abundance of research and guidelines on how to make healthy cities, happiness seems to be missing.

Research shows urban environments have an impact on our well-being and mental health, affect our behaviour and moods, interactions, day-to-day lives and even alter how our brain functions.

Our recent study found people associate their happiness with particular natural and built elements in the environment. This highlights how we can improve the design of cities to enhance people’s happiness.

Searching Instagram

In the first part of our study, we searched Instagram for images of the city people associated with happiness. We did this using four hashtags:

  • #cityhappy
  • #happycity
  • #cityofhappiness
  • #urbanhappiness

The images came from all corners of the globe, with no geographical limitation.

We sifted through hundreds of images, excluding photographs that were “selfies”, had non-urban attributes, or if they included people posing. Overall, we narrowed it down to 196 images, all of which exhibited characteristics of an urban area.

We found photographs tagged with one of the above hashtags consistently featured particular design elements. These were:

  • open space
  • natural elements (vegetation, sand, rocks)
  • historic or heritage buildings
  • colour
  • medium density buildings (up to six storeys)
  • water
  • human scale buildings (horizontal rather than vertical).

The same features came up time and again, irrespective of demographic and geographic location. This supports the idea there may be universal urban features that enhance happiness.

We then tested these themes on Brisbane residents through an online questionnaire.

Online survey

Twenty-two people took part in the online survey. They were asked to evaluate their happiness relative to different features, characteristics and images of areas in Brisbane. The survey comprised a series of multiple choice, selection and rating questions.

The results showed participants associated happiness with the same features as those who had posted on Instagram using the above hashtags. Most common to happiness was open space (86 per cent of respondents) and natural lighting (81 per cent).

Natural spaces with greenery such as parks, gardens and areas with trees, as well as areas that had water, had a significant positive impact on respondents’ happiness. Proximity to facilities, walkability of the area, green belts and views to mountains were also significant factors.

Historic or heritage character buildings ranked pretty highly (72 per cent), over the more modern style buildings. Laneways also scored pretty highly (72 per cent) as did views of the city (68 per cent) and colour (59 per cent). We noticed people liked other things, such as the materials used on sidewalks, roads and building facades.

This pilot study confirms there are specific elements which can be incorporated and factored into the planning and design of cities to enhance people’s happiness. Our further research is currently building on these initial findings, focusing on the relationship between density, urban design and happiness.

How can we use this?

Happiness is a major component of human well-being. But it isn’t factored into the widely recognised quality of life (including health, well-being and a number of economic factors) and liveability (including the standard of living) surveys of cities.

Some evidence suggests average happiness levels in Western nations haven’t improved in the last 68 years (since 1950). This is despite first-world incomes more than doubling in that time.

Happiness studies look at the links between human “subjective well-being” and the environment. We can determine people’s preferences, subjective view and association with elements of the built environment through research, and then apply the lessons to design to improve the quality of the urban environment.

Our research highlights the key elements to be cognisant of in urban transformation projects and designing for future urban areas. These findings show we can use such knowledge and apply this to existing cities to retrofit them for happiness.

People are increasingly leaving the broad acre, single detached home to live in denser, more compact urban areas. There are many benefits to this urban settlement. But to make this lifestyle compatible with human happiness and foster mental health, the design, planning and governing policy needs to consider such factors.

Originally Published by, continue reading here.